Trump says 'brutal repression' of Venezuelan people 'must end'

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump appealed on Monday for a swift end to the "brutal repression" of the Venezuelan people, following an abortive military uprising in support of the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

"I'd like to begin by sending our prayers to the people of Venezuela in their righteous struggle for freedom," Trump said as he hosted a national prayer service at the White House.

"The brutal repression of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon," he warned.

Trump's call followed two days of anti-government unrest in Venezuela that have left four people dead, and as President Nicolas Maduro urged the armed forces to oppose "any coup plotter."

The United States, which recognizes Guaido as interim president, has imposed tough sanctions in an intensifying campaign to drive Maduro from power, as millions have fled the country's economic meltdown.

"People are starving. They have no food, they have no water, and this was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world," said Trump.

"So we wish them well, we'll be there to help and we are there to help."

The United States is insisting Maduro's days remain numbered, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Wednesday that "military action is possible."

But experts warn of limited options to break a protracted stalemate in which Washington may have overestimated the opposition leader's strength.